BlackVPN has been going since 2009. It was originally based in the US, however, it has since moved to Hong Kong. This is a vast improvement as US firms can be subjected to warrants and gag orders.
Black VPN offers various subscription plans that are tailored to video streaming, privacy, and torrenting. It is a no logs VPN service with well-implemented encryption, which means that it is secure. It also provides reasonable speeds and permits peer-to-peer (P2P) downloads on most servers (not US and UK).
Until recently BlackVPN didn’t have custom clients, which meant that it was lacking certain features (like a killswitch). BlackVPN has now developed custom clients for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sadly, those beta clients are full of bugs and won’t connect to many servers. Even the Android client – which is out of beta – lacks a killswitch and fails to connect to many servers. Let’s take a closer look…
The company provides three different packages for subscribers to choose from. The first is the "Privacy" package, which provides access to servers in 16 countries and permits P2P downloading. This plan is good - but is lacking US and UK servers - which likely rules it out for many people.
The "TV" package gives subscribers access to servers in the US and the UK only. At $75 it is somewhat expensive because the UK and US server can still never be used for torrenting. However, for those only interested in streaming content from those places, it might be of interest.
The Global package combines the TV and Privacy packages - and is basically exactly the same as the default plan with most other VPNs on the market. For this reason, we will concentrate on the Global plan in this review.
All of the packages can be purchased on a monthly, 3 month, or annual basis. The global plan works out to $11.60 for one month, $33.02 for three months, and $121.08 for a year (the equivalent of $10 per month). These prices are pretty expensive when compared to other top of the range VPNs - that have upwards of 60 countries to choose from.
To see these options click on select under Global (or one of the other plans if you prefer). You will then be given the option to choose the subscription length. Bizarrely, BlackVPN only quotes its prices on Euros. I tried connecting to a US VPN server to see the prices in dollars, but it was still in Euros which is pretty unorthodox. (I converted the prices to Dollars myself for this review for your convenience.)
Remember, although the Global package includes all of the company's servers it still doesn't allow you to do torrenting when connected to the UK or US.
Users can get get a three-day free trial of the Global package if they install the app for Android or the new beta iOS VPN client. Sadly, there is no free trial on Windows or OS X. However, BlackVPN does offer a full 14-day money-back guarantee: so you can test the service risk-free.
Subscribers can elect to pay via credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and UnionPay. Aswell as by bank transfer and gift cards.
It is worth remembering that paying by Bitcoin will increase your privacy - but will not make you anonymous because the VPN does still have the ability to know your real IP address everytime you connect (in real time) even if it is not being logged once the session finishes. This is true of all no log (and log keeping) VPNs.
BlackVPN's features include:
Servers in 18 countries (on the Global plan)
14-day money-back guarantee
Zero logs policy
P2P allowed on most servers (not UK or US)
OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP encryption options
Allowance of seven simultaneous connections
No data use or bandwidth limits
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection
The BlackVPN server network is quite small compared to other similarly priced (and even cheaper) VPNs. The Global package has servers in the UK, the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
To be fair, this is a very nice spread of servers that most people will be happy with.
Subscribers can select from three different VPN protocols when using BlackVPN. These are PPTP, L2TP/Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), and OpenVPN. Of these, we recommend OpenVPN because it is the most secure. In addition, we generally urge users to stay away from PPTP which is an outdated and insecure protocol.
We are happy to report that BlackVPN's implementation standards for OpenVPN are one of the strongest in the industry. It uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption with a 256-bit key. It implements a 4096-bit RSA handshake - which is extremely secure. Both the data and control channels are of an extremely high standard, meaning that security is assured with this VPN.
BlackVPN has a no logs policy. The company deletes all records of a session as soon as the user logs out. It doesn't keep activity logs or connection logs. BlackVPN also moved from the US to Hong Kong to avoid warrants and gag orders that could put it under pressure to provide real-time access to accounts (or even to begin secretly keeping logs). This is good news indeed. From the policy:
One valid question surrounds BlackVPNs disallowance of P2P on its UK and US servers. If it keeps absolutely no logs, it would appear that BlackVPN has no way to know if users are indeed breaking those rules. I spoke to a BlackVPN agent and they told me the following:
"Instead of keeping connection logs to deter abuse, we’ll rely on reacting to incoming abuse reports by temporarily blocking access to those sites and services that are being abused.
"We may also monitor connections to the IPs being abused in order to locate and ban the abuser. We’ll keep the monitoring in place until the abuse stops, usually just a few days."
For more information on the BlackVPN no logs policy click here.
The BlackVPN website is pretty cool, with a snazzy animated background when you arrive on the homepage. Scrolling down the page gives you plenty of information about the service's main features. It even includes mention of bare metal servers and the fact that it has no "virtual" VPN locations, this is a high level of detail.
The site is also now protected by Cloudflare after it suffered a DDoS attack back in 2016. This is good and means that the site is unlikely to fall victim to another attack which could lock users out. It does mean that you may be requested to fill in a capture from time to time.
The BlackVPN website has a fitting black header for its menu. That menu stays in view as you scroll down the page, which is useful. The site actually has few pages, but this is because most of the sales information is contained on the homepage.
The link to the firm's blog links to Medium - where it hosts its blog. The blog has a variety of interesting articles but is not something that is updated on a regular basis. Instead, it seems to be where BlackVPN makes announcements about adding a new server or feature to its service and to explain the features it already has. Some VPNs also provide news about digital privacy issues - BlackVPN does not bother with this.
The footer of the BlackVPN website also has links to various parts of the sitemap. The various different package can be found here in order to click through and get more information. The Terms of Service, refund policy, and a section called "your rights" can also be found here. The "contact us" link can also be found in the footer.
Finally, there is a link to "Read and Burn" a free online tool powered by BlackVPN, that allows people to send a one-time private message that automatically self-destructs once it has been accessed.
The support page of the BlackVPN website includes links through to an FAQ page and the support ticket creation form. You can access these by clicking on Help in the top menu.
Knowledgebase takes to you to the FAQ page. Sadly the FAQ section is rather bare. So you will need to open a ticket to get proper help for most problems.
There is a live chat feature on the site, and I was told by the live chat agent that it is 24/7. However, in my experience, it tends to be manned around 16 to 18 hours per day. This is still pretty good.
If the chat box in the lower right of the screen says that live help is online, click on it to access the live chat agent. You must enter your name and a question to begin a conversation.
When a support operator becomes available your conversation will start.
Signing up to BlackVPN is easy. Click on "Buy Now" in the top right of the screen and then "select" under the package that interests you. I wanted to test the premium "global" account - so I opted for that.
I elected to pay with Paypal for ease of use and actually used a fake email account in order to be able to do some mystery shopping when it came to opening a support ticket.
Next, you will need to decide on a payment method. I used PayPal for ease of use. You could opt for Bitcoins or a store card for added privacy if you prefer.
Subscribers are asked to confirm that they "agree NOT to download or share any copyrighted material using the USA or UK VPN servers." Next click "Proceed to Payment". After filling whatever credentials are needed and your payment clears, you will see a confirmation screen in your browser.
Following this, you will receive two emails from BlackVPN. The first contains your username and password. The second includes links to setup guides and the app download page.
The BlackVPN Windows VPN Client
BlackVPN only used to function using the third-party OpenVPN GUI client. Users can still use this client (and will need to in order to connect to particular servers).
The good news is that BlackVPN now has a custom Windows VPN client that is in beta. You can access it by clicking on "VPNSetup" in the topnav menu. Selecting Windows will take you to a number of options. This is the one you want:
Once the software has downloaded and installed it launches automatically. The client looks great, it is a fun and attractive client, that appears to be feature packed.
The first thing you will need to do is enter your credentials in the top right. These are in your first welcome email.
Clicking on the globe at the top takes you to the server options. The VPN comes set to the Netherlands by default. I tested a few of the servers and found that this beta client will not connect to any US servers, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Spain, Czechia, Norway, or Japan. All the other European servers, however, worked fine on the beta client.
For this reason, you are still going to need to use the OpenVPN GUI client to connect to quite a lot of important servers (while this beta client is still in development).
The heart on the right currently doesn't do anything.
In settings, you can toggle a few OpenVPN encryption options. It comes set to UDP 443 and AES-256-CBC by default. These settings are fine for most people so there is no need to update these settings. No other protocols are currently offered. However, as OpenVPN is best, this is not a problem.
Auto-Connect is a good addition, especially if made to work in combination with a killswitch. The good news is that the beta client does come with DNS leak protection and a kill switch. These features cannot be switched off: they are on all of the time when you establish a connection. Both clouds will turn green when the connection is established. P2P is marked as red because I was connected to the UK server.
I tested the kill switch by disconnecting my internet and then reconnecting and found that I had no internet until the VPN connection had re-established. So it appeared to work fine for me. However, BlackVPN did admit that the killswitch feature isn't "fully implemented yet" in Windows beta. So it may still be a bit buggy.
I also crashed the VPN on purpose to check the kill switch and found it to be an app-based feature that will not keep working if the VPN crashes for any reason. However, I ran BlackVPN beta for 16 hours solid and it never crashed once.
Finally, users are given the option to turn on VPN cloaking using Stunnel. This is an excellent feature that will permit people to get around firewalls in places like China, Egypt, and Iran (where VPN use is throttled by ISPs). It works by concealing VPN traffic so that it is undetectable.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
I tested BlackVPN using our server-based, scientific speed test methodology. We used the OpenVPN config files to check speeds using our recommended protocol.
As you can see, when compared to four other popular VPN services, BlackVPn does very well. The average download speed is 30.3 Mbits per second with maximum speeds of 71.7 Mbits per second. These results show that this VPN is definitely fast enough to stream in HD.
DNS lookup times sadly were worse. These times can have a real effect on page load times, and as you can see BlackVPN registered the slowest speeds of 5 competitive VPN firms.
As far as VPN connection times are concerned, BlackVPN did pretty well. The average connection time was 3.3 seconds. However, I experienced much longer connection times when I used their Beta clients. these results were achieved using the OpenVPN config files, so are representative of what you can expect using the third party OpenVPN GUI client.
Overall, these speed test results are not terrible. However, for what you pay they aren't quite as fast as some other competitors on the market.
Next, I performed IP address and DNS leak tests using ipleak.net while connected to the BlackVPN server in London, I also checked for the WebRTC bug. I found no IP leak or DNS leaks at all. The test site showed only the VPN's IP address and DNS server. The site reported Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leaks that did not have any relevance to my actual location, so this was a green light too. These tests were performed using the Windows beta client - which means the client is safe to use for privacy purposes.
My Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn't use IPv6 addresses, so I was unable to test for IPv6 leaks.
During my tests, I attempted to connect to the US East and Canadian servers to see if I could access Netflix. I found the Windows beta app would not connect to the US or Canada. For this reason, I moved over to OpenVPN GUI that I downloaded from the BlackVPN website (it comes with the servers pre-installed). Both Netflix US and Netflix Canada blocked me.
I contacted BlackVPN and they told me to use the USA West server to access Netflix US. Sadly, in the Windows beta client, I was again completely unable to connect to the US West server (it said connecting indefinitely). For this reason, I once more turned to the OpenVPN GUI client for testing.
The good news is that I was able to watch US Netflix on the TV-USA-West server using the OpenVPN GUI app.
Using the US-East server (still on OpenVPN GUI) I was able to access a show on CBC. TVA was also accessible. ABC.com, on the other hand, noticed that a VPN was in use and wouldn't let me watch any streams. NBC.com was successfully unblocked using the VPN.
The UK server worked fine in the Windows beta client - but couldn't fool the Netflix UK proxy detection system. BBC iPlayer - which is good at blocking VPNs - did let me watch. This was also true of ITV Hub and Channel 4, which were all accessible using the beta Windows client.
You can install the BlackVPN client on Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, and Android. BlackVPN has also finished developing its iOS VPN client now too and has submitted it to the Apple App Store. However, it is currently waiting to be approved. The good news is that you can still use the beta version by contacting BlackVPN directly.
The Mac VPN client is just a relabeled version of Tunnelblick. In addition, the version of Tunnelblick that BlackVPN supplies isn't even the latest version. The latest version of Tunnelblick has a killswitch so I would recommend getting that and adding the .ovpn config files manually.
It is also possible to set up BlackVPN on Linux and DD-WRT, pfSense, and OpenWRT routers. BlackVPN provides .ovpn config files so that users on any platform can fall back on the third party official OpenVPN client if they want to.
The Android VPN client is the only client that is an actual non-beta custom client. It is available in the Google Play store. The client lets people select between OpenVPN UDP and TCP on port 443. It also has an auto-connect feature with the ability to choose whether it should connect on unknown and known public WiFi hotspots.
Again the Android client does not have a kill switch. In addition, it wouldn't let me connect to any of the US servers, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Spain, Czechia, Norway, or Japan. This is exactly the same problem I experienced with the Windows beta platform. Very disappointing.
On the plus side, from Android Nougat 7+, Android OS comes with a dedicated VPN killswitch that will work for all VPN apps. So you will be able to protect your Android connections using that feature if you have Nougat 7+ or above. However, if you are wanting to use all of the VPN servers you are going to need to get the third party OpenVPN client for Android.
BlackVPN Review: Conclusion
BlackVPN is a service that is considered secure because of strong encryption implementation and a zero logs policy. Speeds are reasonable, and because it permits P2P on most of its servers it is generally considered good for Torrenting. However, the lack of custom clients with a killswitch is something that has put people off in the past (and may continue to do so). Certainly, no killswitch is far from ideal for torrenting.
The good news is that BlackVPN does have custom clients in the works, though for now the iOS and Windows clients are still in beta and are very buggy. Sadly, the Windows beta struggled to connect to many servers. In addition, the support team informed me that the kill switch isn't fully implemented yet. For this reason, I would urge a little caution.
The Android client is fully functional - yet still lacks a kill switch. In addition, it wouldn't connect to many important servers. Thus, you are probably better sticking to the third party OpenVPN client. One advantage is that users can select between OpenVPN UDP and TCP - great if you don't need to use any of the servers that fail to connect.
There can be no doubt that custom clients with a killswitch are going to be useful once they are perfected, but, for now, you might find that you need to use a combination of the third party OpenVPN client and the beta clients in order to get the most out of the service.
Well laid-out website
14-day money-back guarantee
Private DNS and no leaks whatsoever
Allowance of seven simultaneous connections
Works on routers and has setup guides
Unblocks Netflix US on USA West server (using OpenVPN GUI)
Unblocks iPlayer (even on the beta)
I wasn’t so sure about:
Mac client is just Tunnelblick and has no kill switch
Live chat support not available 24/7
Speeds could be faster
Account sharing not permitted
Killswitch on the Windows beta still a bit buggy
No Killswitch on Android client
Android client does not connect to many servers
Beta Windows client does not connect to many servers
BlackVPN is a good VPN for people who don't mind using the third party OpenVPN client. However, considering the price it does seem a little bit lacking compared to other top-of-the-range VPN services.
I wish BlackVPN luck in completing the implementation of its beta clients and look forward to reviewing the service again when it has managed to iron out some of the complications it is having. A good VPN that has a lot of potential.